Apr 20, 2024 - Technology

TikTok's "immigrant aesthetic" marks fresh era of being real online

Illustration of a hand holding up a house-like phone with a roof, brick siding, and a window showing a family

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Children of Asian immigrant households are building community online with videos of their home interiors that hundreds of thousands of TikTok and Instagram viewers relate to.

Why it matters: While minimalistic design has long been en vogue online, viewers appear more receptive to content that reflects ordinary lifestyles — even embracing "de-influencing."

  • The antithesis of mainstream influencer minimalism, these videos feature colorful decor, large plants, and "cluttered" counters and cabinets.
  • Posters often film their pantries, home-cooked meals, kitchen appliances and shared bedrooms.
  • They're a reprieve from feeds often filled with "clean girl aesthetic," "sad beige aesthetic" and "cottagecore."
  • JoySauce, an Asian American media platform, noted last year the "immigrant aesthetic" is rooted in the idea that gratification of a home stems from being surrounded by a display of treasured items.

What we're watching: On TikTok, @Eileenxyang posted a video saying she "wants to shoot aesthetic content, but live(s) in an immigrant household." It got over 2 million views and nearly 500,000 likes.

  • Commenters noted the household has "an aesthetic of its own" and one "that feels like home."

On Instagram, user @emhwinny's video showcasing her "first generation Asian American home" is her page's highest performing video with over 3 million viewers and 300,000 likes.

Between the lines: TikTok is primed for this type of content, as it's more likely anyone can go viral — not only users who focus on a perfectly curated and streamlined feed.

  • The app can be an "antidote to Instagram's culture of performativity and curated aspirationalism," says Brooke Duffy, an associate communications professor at Cornell University.

What they're saying: Triet Tran, a content creator based out of Houston Texas, posted a video with nearly 50,000 views on TikTok of his Vietnamese immigrant household coining it "the most organized mess you will ever see."

  • "Functionality over aesthetics," Tran tells Axios. "People are enjoying watching the authenticity of this new era of content creators that aren't just focused on seeming perfect."
  • Tran has seen his follower count grow since making videos about the Vietnamese immigrant experience.

Zoom out: These videos celebrating immigrant roots come as anti-immigrant sentiment and distrust in the U.S. is on the rise.

  • Immigration has become a dominant issue of the 2024 presidential election.
  • Former President Trump's harsh rhetoric about immigrants has sparked fears that hate crimes could increase, particularly towards Latinos.
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